Learning for Life Balance

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My day job is to work with sales professionals and their distribution network in order to grow and strengthen their skill set and knowledge base with the long-term goal to change and better behaviors. Each time I meet with customers, I’m amazed at how small to mid-sized business owners get it all done. I know I struggle with work life balance. When you add personal development, hobbies, and down time to my equation, it’s a surprise that I sleep.

Besides having standardized go-to topics on sales, business acumen, technical information, etc., I do occasionally have one off training requests for specialized topics such as SMART goal planning, creating customer touch points, and social media in agriculture. The interest in the last one is amazing to me.

Social media, as a connection to family and friends, is incredibly easy. However, many small to mid-sized companies haven’t tapped into this touch point as a tool to connect with customers. I can understand as a business owner with several horses in the race, it’s difficult to effectively designate your time on topics you’re interested in but may not have enough time to “master” the skill needed to make the experience effective. But then what? Do you not connect at all? That would be a big fat FAIL.

One of my favorite experts on the topic of “agvocating” for agriculture through social media is Michele Payn-Knoper. I have never met Michele or attended any of her sessions, however her web site and blog, Cause Matters, are incredibly thorough on the topics on creating customer touch points through social media. I refer to them quite often.

In one of Michele’s more recent articles, “Is social media dead in the food & farming discussion,” she talks about a headline she came across, “Why Social Media is Dead.” No one wants to use old technology or mediums – well, unless you’ll always love a printing press and an actual book in your hand like me… (ah, Anchorman… “I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.) I digress.

Michele links to Logic+Emotion: Social Business: Where It’s Been & Where It’s Going, and an article written by David Armano, EVP of Edelman Digital. Armano provides an excellent essay and image (Edelman is known for their amazing visual thinking graphs/charts/imagery) of how social media started as a digital/interactive realm and is evolving into a social business: connected, adaptive, intelligent.

This is absolutely the way we’re headed, so there is no question as to “why” you shouldn’t be connected with social media as a business owner. Yet, in an era of super connectivity, this is where it gets tricky. Many areas still struggle with any connectivity. Not all of rural America has a great connection (unless you’re South Dakota – you over-achiever, you! That place is wired.)

So how does a small business owner manage? How do you stay engaged and connected with customers who can instantly “Like” or “Dislike” you and share their opinion of your products and services to masses in seconds? My customers ask this question daily as they only have so much time dedicated to training and growing their existing knowledge and skill set.

This can only mean that – at least for now – I have job security. I will keep training individuals in agriculture how to advocate on behalf of our industry.

What are your thoughts on how to manage professional and personal time, training, development, and life in general? How are you learning about new ideas and topics? What are some tips and tricks I can share with my customers that you recommend?

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